How to turn Keep Track of Formatting on and off

Keep track of formatting is tricky and is much more powerful in Word 2007 than in previous version. (For users of past versions, this relates to the old Char problem.)

It pays to pay attention to it. It is a critical setting almost hidden in the Options setting in the bottom right corner of the Styles Task Pane.

View the settings

  1. Click Options from the Styles Task Pane.

The critical function on this page is the Select formatting to show as styles: setting. This works together with Keep track of formatting which you will find in Office, Options. They both have to be set to get the required outcomes.

Set Keep Track of Formatting to ON

  1. Click the Office button, Word Options, Advanced.
  2. Tick Keep track of formatting if you want Word 2007 to remember your manual formatting changes and store them as styles.

The safest option is to un-tick this, but if you leave it ticked, you can manage what shows in your style list in the Style Pane Options box.

Set Mark formatting inconsistencies to ON

  1. Tick Mark formatting inconsistencies if you are disciplined with using styles and want Word 2007 to underline any manually formatted text.
  2. Leave them both ticked for now and click OK.

Set Select formatting to show as styles

These options are disabled if the Mark formatting inconsistencies checkbox is un-ticked.

  1. Back in your Styles Task Pane, click Options again.
  2. With the Mark formatting inconsistencies checkbox ticked, the Select formatting to show as styles: options are enabled and control what you see in your Styles Task Pane.
  3. Select which manual formatting you want Word 2007 to track (if any).

Set Keep Track of Formatting to OFF

  1. If you decide you don't want Word to keep track of any formatting, click the Office button, Word Options, Advanced.
  2. Untick Keep track of formatting.


  1. Anonymous19/1/10

    Thanks - super helpful! There is nothing about this whasoever on the MS site that I found in over 10 mins of searching.

  2. Anonymous3/6/10

    It would help if you answered this most basic of questions: WHY do you want to keep track of formatting?

    If you are using Track and Review, then (to me) it's just maddening to see bold, italic, etc. EXCEPT when I'm doing a copy edit.

    Are there reasons outside of doing a review why you would want to keep track of formatting versus keeping it turned off?

  3. THANK YOU! I've been looking for this information for a while, and finally found it! I need to track formatting so I can use "Select text with similar formatting." Thanks!

  4. Anonymous24/2/12

    Keep track of formatting is the most frustrating *bug* in Word. I should be able to decide for myself to turn this on or off. But instead, no matter what I do, Microsoft litters my styles with every stray bit of formatting in my document. And if my documents have been edited by others, that can be literally hundreds. I want my ten styles ONLY. Microsoft, stop telling me how I must use Word!!!! AAAAAACK!

  5. So Anonymous, you couldn't follow my construction's above? You can choose to switch on and off a whole array of options. Follow the instructions and feel the magic.

  6. tommykay17/3/12

    "Feel the magic"? Fine, except you have to keep telling it to stop showing these pointless extra styles with every flipping document. That's not magic, that's irritating.

    Why should Microsoft make me repeatedly uncheck "paragraph level formatting" and "font formatting" when I have already told it NOT to track that nonsense?

    It's like Microsoft has gone out of their way to be the obtrusive formatting police.

    Read Anonymous' comments again very carefully. She/he said it perfectly.

  7. Set it once and use templates. It is NEVER on in my documents. Avoid bringing in garbage styles by importing text only.

    1. Anonymous21/7/12


      Thanks for the great info. When you say "Avoid bringing in garbage styles by importing text only," do you mean by pasting unformatted text, or could you elaborate?

  8. I agree with the comment from the 3rd "Anonymous" and "tommykay". I am using MS Word 2010, and I cannot permanently disable Track Changes' "Track formatting" feature. It does not appear that MS has provided users with the ability to change the default setting in this regard. Rather, one must change the setting for each document. This is annoying, frustrating, and unnecessarily takes extra time. I was hoping that MS, this blog, or *someone* would have the answer. Since I haven't found one yet, I decided to create a workaround solution by recording a macro. The macro simply enables "Track Changes" and disables the "feature" that tracks formatting changes.

    If you don't know how to create a macro, it's really quite simple:

    1) Right-click the ribbon and choose "Customize the Ribbon". (Alternatively, click the "File" tab, choose "Options", and go to the "Customize Ribbon" option in the left-hand menu.)

    2) On the right-hand side (in the "Main Tabs" menu), check the box for "Developer". Click "OK".

    3) Navigate to the newly-shown "Developer" tab and click "Record Macro" (on the left side).

    4) On the window the pops up ("Record Macro"), assign a "Macro name" (I chose to use "Disable_Tracking_Formatting_Changes"). Optionally, write a description (I chose to use "Starts 'Track Changes' feature and disables 'Track formatting'.). I'm a keyboard shortcut guy, so I also chose to "assign macro to" the keyboard. Click the keyboard icon, hit Ctrl-t, and click close. (Ctrl-T, "T" for track changes.) Click "OK".
    CAUTION: At this point, you are recording a macro, so do not do anything other than what follows. Otherwise, you could run into issues every time you run the macro.

    5) Navigate to the "Review" tab and click the "Track Changes" icon to begin tracking changes.

    6) Click the drop-down arrow under the "Track Changes" icon, and choose "Change Tracking Options".

    7) On the window that pops up, under the formatting section, uncheck the box next to "Track formatting". Click OK.

    8) Navigate back to the "Developer" tab and click on "Stop Recording".
    Note: After completing this step, you are no longer recording a macro, so you don't have to exercise caution anymore.

    9) You're done! Now, whenever you want to track changes (but not formatting changes!), just hit Ctrl-t.

    Note that if you are not a "Power User", you may want to make the "Developer" tab disappear from the Ribbon again. Just follow Step 2 above and uncheck the box next to "Developer".

    Hope this helps you all! I know it will make *me* much happier. But Microsoft, if you are reading this, PLEASE allow users to change this default setting. We want the ability to customize and make our own choices, not be told how to do things. Half the time it assumes that we know nothing about how to use a word processor anyway. I think we're a little smarter than that. ;-)